Monday, 14. July 2014
Who would want to pass up a chance at medals?
Professionals from the Netherlands meet Ottobock experts in Duderstadt
During a Netherlands-Germany meeting on Wednesday, thinking about athletics and not football was not all that easy. At least the event was about Brazil, but in the form of Rio 2016. Under the four-year plan of national coach Guido Bonsen, who wants to bring the Netherlands Paralympic professionals to the gold medal level, the team visited the headquarters of its sponsor Ottobock in Duderstadt for three days. For training and discussions.
In the first year after the games, one might expect the Paralympic athletes to take it a bit easier. “Perhaps that is what I should have done,” says Marlou van Rhijn, world record holder in the 100, 200 and 400 metres. “But then we had the world championship in Lyons in 2013.” Her result: gold in the 100 and 200 metres. One wouldn't want to pass up a chance at medals. The 400 metres were not on the agenda in her class.
Now we are into the second year, and trainer Guido Bonsen plans to “lay a broad foundation, which will benefit us in building up performance until Rio”. This foundation mainly has a physical aspect, but also a technical side. “I train the body of the athlete. But I cannot train a body part that is missing. In that case, we need a technical device which matches the athlete's fitness.”
This means that the steadily improving performance in Paralympic competitions demands corresponding further development in the field of sport prostheses. The delegation from the Netherlands also spoke with Hub van den Boomen and other Ottobock experts about what can be expected in the near future. Part of the group during the three days: the German 100-metres world record holder Heinrich Popow.
Jens Nörthemann describes the win-win situation created by cooperation between athletes and orthopaedic technicians. With technology adapted to the athlete, he or she is able to realise the full performance potential. “And we as technicians get top-notch feedback. With their highly defined sense of movement, the athletes only need a few steps to tell us what is good about a change to a prosthesis setting and what is not.” This teaches the experts a lot, also for their everyday work with non-athletes.
Ronald Hertog, who achieved 6.78 metres in the long jump to win silver in Lyons, points out a misunderstanding: “A fitting with a sprinting prosthesis is not like buying a car. It is more like Formula 1. Every detail has to be precisely coordinated. That is why mutual trust is so important. You need a technician who knows exactly what is right for you personally.”
The Netherlands professionals train 20 hours per week at the National Sports Center near Arnheim. In April of 2013, their sponsoring agreement with Ottobock and the orthopaedics expert Frank Jol, who specialises in professional sports, was extended by four years. Coach Guido Bonsen likes the idea of winning seven medals in Rio, just like at the London 2012 games. “But it would be even nicer if more than one of them was made of gold.” In London that was for the victory of Marlou van Rhijn in the 200 metres. For her and her team, the next step on the way to Rio is the European championship in Swansea (Wales) in August.